Follow this link to skip to the main content
Hurricanes: Science and Society
1559- Florida Hurricane Ruins Spanish Settlement

The Spanish conquistador Don Tristan de Luna y Arellano was sent to conquer Florida in 1559. On August 15, 1559, he landed near present day Pensacola, establishing the first European settlement in the continental United States. Just weeks later, on the evening of September 19, 1559, a hurricane, which lasted for 24 hours, decimated the settlement and destroyed de Luna’s fleet. Those who survived tried to reestablish the settlement, but due to famine and attacks, their attempts failed. The site was abandoned in 1561.

Fast Facts:

  • After de Luna’s colony was destroyed, it was concluded that Florida was too dangerous to colonize and the Spanish did not attempt to settle on the U.S. Gulf Coast again until 1693, 134 years later.
  • In 1992, the Florida Bureau of Archaeological Research discovered the remains of a Spanish sailing ship, a galleon, off Emanuel Point during a survey of Pensacola Bay. It is thought that this may be one of Tristan de Luna’s sunken ships. Thousands of artifacts and field specimens have been recovered and a substantial portion of the ship’s hull architecture has been recorded.


History of Pensacola, Florida. Wikipedia. 2009.

Tristan de Luna y Arellano. Wikipedia. 2009.

Smith, R.C., Spirek, J., Bratten, J., and Scott-Ireton, D. 1995. The Emaunel Point Ship: Archaeological Investigations, 1992-1995, Preliminary Report. Florida Bureau of Archaeological Research,
Division of Historical Resources.

Smith, R.C., Bratten, J.R., Cozzi, J.C., and Plaskett, K. The Emanuel Point Ship Archaeological Investigations 1997-1998. Report of Investigations #68, Archaeology Institute, University of West Florida.